[Note: This post is a continuation on a series of posts from this past summer. More explanation of PCOS and my history with it can be found in the original post.]

I’ve mentioned a few times on the blog how grad school’s been pretty rough this semester. Well, part of the reason it’s been hard has been because of health issues going on in my life. While I never expected my first semester of PhD Land to be a walk in the park, I feel like my ability to assess the work load has been skewed due to debilitating exhaustion that I’ve been experiencing for the past few months.

Part of the balancing act for this blog (and my life) focuses on being as healthy as possible and treating my body with respect. I’m definitely a work in-progress. This past year my goal has been to clean up my diet, stop taking any medications I was on, and focus on exercising. One of the main reasons for this is I wanted to go see an endocrinologist and get a new panel of blood work. Something’s going on with my body and I wanted to know what that something was. In addition to my PCOS issues, since I was a teenager I’ve never felt rested after a full nights sleep and I’m always complaining about feeling tired/exhausted.

So, let’s recap the ways I’ve been bettering my health on my own:

Exercise:

When the semester started I had grand plans about fitting into my life marathon training, strength training, and other forms of exercise. Basically, I fell short overall. Hilary and I considered and reconsidered our marathon plans a few times and ultimately decided that neither of us had the time to train for a full marathon and we ended up registering for the St. Pete Rock n Roll Half Marathon.

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Also, since I was running low on energy, completing my teaching responsibilities and doing my own course work became the priority. Getting the basics done was all I had the energy for and exercise fell by the wayside.

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Food:

I’ve continued to eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet. Recently, I’ve also toyed with a diet completely free of added sugar and a gluten-free diet. I found out that my body doesn’t seem to be absorbing vitamin D properly and as a result I’m severely deficient. I take a multivitamin, I eat lots of dairy and my almond milk has added vitamin D, and I enjoy doing my reading outside, so I’m not sure why I’m deficient.

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I’m still drinking green (spinach or wheatgrass) smoothies on a regular basis. I’m careful to add lots of nutrients to my smoothies, like almond butter or Amazing Grass supplements.

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Acupuncture:

My foray into Chinese medicine has been put on hold. While I’m much more open to Chinese medicine treatment plans because I feel like they take into consideration the function and well-being of the whole body, unlike Western medicine, I haven’t found a new practice in Tallahassee.

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Education:

A couple weeks before my endocrinologist appointment I watched Forks Over Knives. It’s a documentary that was recently released and is now available on Netflix Instant-Play. It’s based on the book The China Study. The really shorted gist of the movie is this: you can reverse, stop, or cure heart disease through the diet choices that you make. Essentially, a plant-based (read vegan) diet, is the best for the heart.

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While, I think there is a lot of research that still needs to be done, I am fairly convinced that the Standard American Diet is detrimental to our health and we should be much more conscious of what our food is made of and what we eat.

Result:
Anyway, despite all these positive changes to my diet and lifestyle, I still haven’t not felt any better. In fact, I think the stress and pressure of grad school has exacerbated my fatigue issues and I’ve been feeling worse than ever!
In November, I went and saw the endocrinologist and had a whole new round of blood tests. Going to the doctor reminded me why I have grown to hate Western medicine. On the first visit, when the doctor saw that I had PCOS, she immediately tried to prescribe a pill to take everyday. She didn’t even consider anything else, just the diagnosis and the standard treatment plan. As for my fatigue? She didn’t know.
On the second visit, the blood tests all came back “normal,” with the exception of the vitamin D issue, which she ignored. Apparently, my diet and exercise changes have “cured” my PCOS, but I’m not so quick to believe that. I’m still exhibiting symptoms of PCOS and I tend to believe that idea of “normal” ranges need to be scrutinized a bit more. What might be normal for someone else, does not necessarily mean that it’s normal for me.
Since all my blood work looks normal, but I still feel like absolute crap, the next step in this adventure is to try and sleep study.
What do they say, when you hear hooves, think horses and not zebras? The idea is that perhaps I have a sleep disorder that has left me in a perpetual state of sleep deprivation and is wrecking havoc on my body.
Regardless, I’m going to continue playing with my diet and exercise habits and I think I will always find the medical community suspect.

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